Birmingham Roller Guardians
by Paul Sisk
Written for Circus Lofts' website: http://circuslofts.com
When I was getting back into rollers I did a lot of research. Having been wiped out by hawks twice in the last fifteen years. I read up on Catalonian Tumblers and Flying Oriental Rollers and after talking to some people and reading a lot of articles I decided to go with the Flying Oriental Rollers because they were originally bred to avoid desert falcons and had a more varied performance than a Catalonian. I have since also learned that performing Catalonians are very rare in the U.S. I picked up a few birds but was unable to come across any that I really liked.
An article I read had said that Dale Husband's family of birds were possibly the only true performing Oriental Rollers left in the United States so the quest started to obtain this family. Whether it was fate, destiny, or pure dumb luck I just happened to find the National Performing Roller Association and seen an advertisement by Alan Bliven of Circus Lofts that his friend Dennis Radi had a whole group for sale. I immediately called Dennis and secured the birds. I got six pairs of breeders and an eleven bird kit already trained.
Meanwhile I had also picked up a twenty bird kit of Pensom Birmingham Rollers that a breeder was getting out because of hawks. After getting the birds used to the kit box they were put to the air. I flew them for months with no predator problems at all. I was in pigeon heaven. I then acquired a kit of Galati Rollers and started flying them and then one day it happened. I guess I was in a major migration route. I had two kits up that day, one kit of Birmingham's and one kit of Galatis. They flew quite well together and some of the Galatis were just coming into the roll. They made a pass around and over the timber and four birds were missing. They made another pass and the kit came out busted up and going in every direction. Right then I knew I was having a major air raid. I called in the birds but did not get them all in until dark. My four best Galatis and one very promising young almond Birmingham were missing. Flying on an every other day schedule, no birds were flown the next day. The next day I looked around carefully and saw no sign of any hawks so I put them up again. Again they made a pass over the timber and the kit was all broken up and going everywhere. Neither time I never saw a hawk but when they landed I was missing three birds, one Birmingham and two Galatis. I then went into lock down until deciding how to carry on.
I had yet to test the Flying Oriental Rollers against hawks but decided now was the time. I took them out of the stationary kit box and put them in the portable. I put a kit of young Birminghams in the other side of the portable. I took them to the farm and proceeded to release the Flying Oriental Rollers with two hawks visible in the distance. The kit went up and the hawks immediately came in for a visit. The time was now to find out the truth first hand. It was a couple of sharp shins and they made a pass at the kit but the Flying Oriental Rollers darted and dived almost to the ground and evaded the hawks. The hawks made another pass with the same outcome. I was quite pleased. They had performed just as advertised. I started flying the Flying Oriental Rollers every day and had a couple of half hearted attempts until the hawks finally just sit and watched. This pair was evidently migrating because after a week or so of going hungry they moved on. I finally flew the Birmingham kit one day and boom, out of nowhere the predator came in and took one of my whites. The next day I put up the Flying Oriental Rollers first and out came the hawk. It was a large Cooper hen and she was quick. She was hot on the tail of a yearling cinnamon hen. They darted and dived through the trees and I lost site of them both. Neither came back that day. But it is also written that if a hawk does catch one of your mature Flying Oriental Rollers you didnít need it anyway. The next day the little hen was in the kit box only short half her tail feathers.
Now I fly two kits at a time. I always release the Flying Oriental Rollers first to check for hawks and after they trap in I release the second kit of Birminghamís or Galatis. I have twenty one Flying Oriental Rollers in the kit box so that if I want to fly three or four kits that day I will only release half at a time. The local hawks will not even attempt to catch the birds now, they just sit off in the distance and watch after so many frustrating unsuccessful attempts at catching the Flying Oriental Rollers. Hawks are intelligent birds and they learn where a meal is will be a good place to come back and look again. They also learn not to waste vast amounts of energy on fruitless chases. I think I have found the perfect solution for my predator problems. I will now and forever put up the Flying Oriental Rollers first to train my hawks that they cant catch my pigeons. I also believe there is a plus to having the hawks chase my Flying Oriental Rollers. I feel that since this is what they were bred for that possibly this will enhance performance. I guess time will tell, as I will breed from the air.
One word of caution for the first timer with Flying Oriental Rollers. Even though the mature birds are or should be hawk proof the young birds are venerable. It is the diving, spinning and spirals that the birds use to evade hawks and until the young develop these traits they can be caught as easily as a Birmingham.
Even though I have not lost a bird of any breed since I started this method, when I get an occasional attack it is really quite amusing watching them make their tactical evasion techniques. I was considering getting out of Rollers but now I think I will happily fly them using my Birmingham Roller Guardians.
Notes from Circus Lofts: Not only do these bird perform as Paul testified but they will keep you entertained as well with their rolling, spinning, diving etc. This is a true performing roller breed.
If you attempt to try this method yourself, you need to understand that there are two breeds of Oriental Rollers in the U.S. One is is show type simply named "Oriental Roller" and the other is the genuine "Flying Oriental Roller." You will be best served using the Flying Oriental Roller.
Here are some additional comments by Paul:
Went to fly my birds this afternoon and about three minutes after I released the Flying Oriental's a huge hawk appeared in hot pursuit of one. I missed the majority of the chase but did see the "grand finale". They were coming from behind me and I heard a louder than normal wing flapping. I turned just in time to see the last of a spiral dive by the FOR with the hawk in a closed wing dive. The bird came within literally inches of the ground and made a sudden straight up turn. The "poor" hawk hit the dirt with a thud. It stunned him but not long enough for me to "see" to its injuries. It was an odd color for here. I have never seen one. It looked like a juvenile golden eagle but I am pretty sure we have such here. It had a brown mottled look. Needless to say it left empty handed and the FOR's finished their flight unruffled. And then most importantly I flew my Birmingham Rollers for about forty five minutes without incident.
I got to fly against a Peregrine Falcon today. The jury is still out as to whether I want to do it again. He didn't get to come from high up because the birds saw him before he could set up for a dive. He made two attempts. The first try he burst through the kit and came hot on the tail of a black FOR and they darted and dove through the trees and the bird lost him. He immediately went after a red cock and stayed on him until the bird actually dove into a pond adjacent to my property. I thought he had caught it so I went around to the pond and the bird was swimming to the edge. I guess he figured a swim was better than being supper for a hawk. I guess I will give him another try tomorrow.